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Zimmerman's multi-hit night, Severino's playoff debut and other positives from Game 1

Zimmerman's multi-hit night, Severino's playoff debut and other positives from Game 1

The Nationals 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was defined by starter Max Scherzer’s early struggles and the offense’s squandered opportunities against Clayton Kershaw. Though Washington finds itself in a 1-0 hole, there were a few positive developments that came out of Friday’s game that could pay dividends as the series progresses.  

Zimmerman’s return: For most of the season, Dusty Baker has called Ryan Zimmerman his “hard luck” guy; the hitter that has squared up his fair share of pitches only to have them land right at a defender. On Friday night, the veteran first baseman finally had a few of those well-struck balls fall for hits. Zimmerman finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of single off Kershaw and couple of deep fly outs that briefly looked like they’d leave the yard.  

“I thought that I had a really good approach tonight,” Zimmerman said.  “I hit three balls hard off of Clayton and then just missed a slider off of Baez there. I feel good, so hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow and hopefully for a lot more games here this month.”

“It was real good. He was being aggressive,” Baker added. “He's seeing the ball well and it's right on time. We anticipate more of that tomorrow, during the game. And he just missed two home runs, one to right and one to left. And so, that's a great sign, when he's hitting the ball like that.”

Severino’s impresses in playoff debut: Obviously, the Nats would much rather have Wilson Ramos as their starting catcher in the playoffs. But with the All-Star lost with an ACL tear, it was up to rookie Pedro Severino to pick up the slack. And the result, to the surprise of some, was much better than expected. The 23-year-old went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored off Kershaw.

"Very excited to participate and try to enjoy the moment,” he said through an interpreter. 

“He did a great job,” Baker said. “He did a great job calling pitches. He hit a couple balls extremely hard....Seve was Seve. He has good life. You know that he's exuberant. You know that he wants to win.”

In addition to what he did at the plate, Severino served as Scherzer's battery mate for just the second time in his career. 

“I’m very excited and grateful that Scherzer gave me the confidence to catch him and we did a pretty good job of limiting the damage out there,” Severino said. “We’re working very well as a unit. We were able to keep the team in the game 4-0 and kept it there.”

Baker said that Severino will likely be on the bench to start Game 2 because of Jose Lobaton's career numbers against starter Rich Hill. But if Game 1 was indication, the moment isn't too big for the rookie catcher. 

Solis shines, too: Speaking of first-time contributors, Sammy Solis acquitted himself quite well in his first-ever playoff appearance. Coming in relief of Scherzer in the seventh inning, the 28-year-old lefty pitched two scoreless frames to keep the deficit at 4-3. That Baker went to Solis immediately after taking out Scherzer demonstrates a growing trust in someone who has become the bullpen's most reliable south paw. 

Robinson’s ends extra-base drought: After the All-Star break, reserve first baseman Clint Robinson was 26-for-103 — all of those hits singles. In fact, his last extra-base hit came on a July 8 home run against the New York Mets. So, as the baseball gods would have it, that drought ended in his first at-bat of the playoffs. He came through with a two-out pinch-hit double in the eighth inning off Dodgers closer Kenlsey Jansen. The two-bagger was not only set up the Nats’ last legitimate scoring opportunity of the night, but it was their only hit off Jansen, who converted a five-out save.

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Astros' Carlos Correa on the negative fan reaction in spring training debut: 'I didn't hear anything'

Astros' Carlos Correa on the negative fan reaction in spring training debut: 'I didn't hear anything'

For the first time since the Astros sign-stealing scandal broke, Houston infielders Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel took the field in spring training on Monday.

As expected, they were showered by a bunch of 'boos' from the crowd.

Correa was asked by Astros' beat reporter Chandler Rome about the reaction the players received, and the third baseman claimed he could not hear anything.

"What reaction?" Correa said. "I didn't hear anything."

As seen by the videos above, the 'boos' would have been certainly hard to tune out.

The Astros played their first spring training game on Saturday against the Nationals, who they share a complex with, but none of the players that were on the World Series team in 2017 played. They were still booed, and multiple signs by fans needed to be removed by stadium employees.

All four infielders had three plate appearances on Monday before being removed from the game. Correa finished 0-2 with a strikeout, walk, and grounded into a double play. Altuve was hit by a pitch, but it was on a breaking ball that got away. He was not intentionally thrown at. 

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Ryan Zimmerman 'couldn't be happier' for Alex Ovechkin scoring 700 career goals

Ryan Zimmerman 'couldn't be happier' for Alex Ovechkin scoring 700 career goals

Two of the longest-tenured athletes in Washington, D.C. are Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman and Ovechkin made their respective MLB and NHL debuts within nearly a month of each other; Zimmerman's first game with the Nationals was on Sept. 1, 2005, while Ovechkin's first game with the Capitals was Oct. 5. Since then, both have spent their careers with the same organization, becoming legends in the nation's capital and being an integral part of a championship team.

Ovechkin scored his 700th career NHL goal on Saturday, a feat only seven other players have done in the history of the league. Zimmerman, who has had a relationship with the goal-scorer for years and is an avid Capitals fan, was thrilled to see Ovechkin continue to climb in the record books.

"[Ovechkin's] commitment to that organization, his work ethic, his character, the way he's gone about his business, just his longevity, his consistency has been unbelievable," Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. "I couldn't be happier for him."

The two teams have an incredible bromance with one another.

Throughout the Capitals' Stanley Cup run in 2018, Zimmerman and his Nationals teammate Max Scherzer were often seen in the stands showing support. When the Caps boarded a plane to Nashville ahead of the Nationals Game 5 clash with the Dodgers in the NLDS this past season, the whole Caps team sported Nats gear. The Capitals have a Nationals batting helmet in their locker room that's given to the de-facto player of the game. The list goes on and on.

By being in Washington, D.C. for the past 15-plus seasons, Ovechkin and Zimmerman have each been able to see the other grow both on and off the playing field. 

"I appreciate the entertainment for 15 years on and off the ice, I guess you could say," Zimmerman said. "You're talking about one of, if not the best goal scorer of all-time. So it's been fun to watch. He's just one of those guys who competes every day. He plays with passion and it's fun to watch him play."

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